Our experience in most rally games is about 60 seconds of frantic sawing at the steering wheel and stabbing at the throttle before unceremoniously slamming the car into a fir tree and reaching for the reset button. Art of Rally somehow manages to take the exact same sport and present it as a slice of relaxing, zen escapism. It’s like discovering the Dalai Lama can heel-and-toe in those sandals.
The key is the camera angle: The game is played from a hovering, swooping top-down perspective, which means you have a great view of the stage ahead and are guaranteed to never be caught out by a surprise caution-hairpin-right-don’t-cut-trees-outside. Freed from the shackles of pace notes and cockpit cams, you can concentrate on chaining together sequences of glorious, lazy drifts. Combine that with a hazy, dream-like art style and a subtly urgent soundtrack, and Art of Rally is essentially meditation for petrolheads.
It’s evidently built by people with a real love of the sport as well, particularly the golden era of the ’80s and the early ’90s. The selection of polygonal toybox rally cars has a pleasing weight to them, making power slides genuinely satisfying and spots on the global online leaderboards feel well earned.
It’s not a big game, however. Even for £20 (P1,250), it’s a slight package, and the relative simplicity of the stages also robs them of some character, meaning you’ll feel like you’ve seen everything on offer after a couple of hours. Still, it’s also unlike any rally game we’ve ever played before, in that it actively reduces your heart rate rather than elevating it to dangerous, life-shortening levels.
If you’re looking for something different, or you just have a pacemaker that you’d prefer to keep on the inside of your chest cavity, Art of Rally is worthy of your attention.
NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.